Toyota (TM) says it has rolled back its sales predictions for the upcoming year, but the company remains committed to hybrid car production and its plans to produce an electric vehicle to compete with rival auto manufacturers.
Despite a 700,000-vehicle predicted drop in sales, Toyota says it is still on the path toward its goal of selling 1 million hybrids a year by the early 2010s. The company also announced that Toyota would start producing an electric car by early next decade, which offers a direct challenge to the plans of Nissan and Mitsubishi that plan to mass produce their own electric vehicles within the next two years. Toyota stock rose slightly, indicating that The Street agrees with the company’s pursuit of efficient technologies.
Are slower sales sign of tough economic times? Yes, of course, but they also point out that Toyota can’t get away with producing larger, fuel inefficient vehicles any more than Ford or GM or Chrysler. Toyota’s big sales drops have, like Detroit’s big three, largely come in the full-sized truck and large car segments. Hybrid and small car sales remain robust.
The heart of Toyota’s future growth remains hybrid vehicles, and Toyota is not slacking off on its hybrid push one iota. Toyota still plans to unveil the next-gen Prius as promised, on schedule, next year as well as to introduce a new Lexus hybrid. It’s also forging ahead with other, more fuel efficient models. President Katsuaki Watanabe says Toyota plans to use the foreseen slowdown to streamline its already lean manufacturing operations, making its production system in the U.S. more agile, and to develop more hybrid cars and other fuel-efficient vehicles.
The undercurrent here seems to be, ‘OK, we were a little off in our production estimates, but we’re still pressing ahead with the next Prius, and we’re serious about producing an electric car too!’ To which we can all say, “Good!”